Google to bring its Privacy Sandbox to Android app ecosystem

David Murphy

Google has announced a multi-year initiative to build its Privacy Sandbox on Android, effectively replicating Apple’s App Tracking Transparency framework move on iOS. The company said it should have a beta release by the end of the year. 

The Privacy Sandbox is Google’s initiative to enable companies to target advertising once third-party cookies have been deprecated, initially intended for the web, but now also to be applied to Android apps.

In a blog post announcing the move, Anthony Chavez, VP, Product Management for Android Security and Privacy, said that the solutions will limit sharing of user data with third parties and operate without cross-app identifiers, including advertising ID. His post also said that Google is exploring technologies that reduce the potential for covert data collection, including safer ways for apps to integrate with advertising SDKs. Testing it

“Our goal with the Privacy Sandbox on Android is to develop effective and privacy enhancing advertising solutions, where users know their information is protected, and developers and businesses have the tools to succeed on mobile,” Chavez said. “While we design, build and test these new solutions, we plan to support existing ads platform features for at least two years, and we intend to provide substantial notice ahead of any future changes.”

Without mentioning Apple by name, he also referenced other platforms that “have taken a different approach to ads privacy, bluntly restricting existing technologies used by developers and advertisers,” adding that Google belies that, without first providing a privacy-preserving alternative path — such approaches can be ineffective and lead to worse outcomes for user privacy and developer businesses.

Android developers can review Google’s initial design proposals and share feedback on the Android developer site, and Google plans to release developer previews over the course of the year, with the beta release by the end of the year.

Tammy Parker, Principal Analyst at data and analytics firm GlobalData said the move signalled that the writing is on the wall for the targeted advertising industry, as privacy advocates’ concerns are finally being heard and acted upon through a mix of regulation and the industry’s own nascent efforts.

But she also signalled a note of caution, saying: “Google’s efforts to ‘have its cake and eat it too’ (by improving both mobile and web privacy while seeking to enable advertisers, publishers, developers and others to continue engaging in limited though apparently still targeted advertising) could end up pleasing no one, with privacy advocates likely to cast a raised eyebrow at any advertising solutions deemed to fall short of protecting consumers.”